When the Miami Dolphins put on pads tomorrow morning, rookie linebacker Raekwon McMillan might finally get to tackle someone. Unless he doesn’t.
The Dolphins will hold their first full contact practice on Saturday but full contact does not mean “full-contact”. In fact it means contact but don’t hurt the guy. Jay Ajayi will get his first look at the Dolphins new linebacker group when they take the field and while he likely won’t be tackled to the ground, he is going to get a little different from if they were in no pads at all. Raekwon McMillan will be waiting.
McMillan is in his first NFL camp and while the head is an obvious eye opener the speed and physicality of this level is also opening his eyes, even as the team practices with no pads on. Under the shoulder shells his body is going to really get acclimated to the South Florida heat. Something fellow rookie Cordrea Tankersely found out today when he was taken off the field do to heat exhaustion.
Saturday is going to be good for all the players but for McMillan who is sliding almost unchallenged into one of two linebacker roles, his progress is more important. McMillan took reps today at middle linebacker with the first team unit but it’s believed that he will slide into Koa Misi’s outside role. Misi was placed on IR three days ago before camp started.
McMillan met with the press after today’s practice and talked about when he will get to make his first tacle and how being a “pro” changes him. The transcript is courtesy of MiamiDolphins.com.
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Friday, July 28, 2017
Linebacker Raekwon McMillan
(What is the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make coming from college – Ohio State – to now here in the NFL?) – “In Ohio, it wasn’t this hot, for one; but just coming in and being around veteran guys. At Ohio State, I came in and I started as a freshman. So I was in early and I kind of built leadership early; but here, I don’t have to be that leader out there. They’ve already got leaders on the team – guys who have been in the league for five, six, seven, eight, nine or 10 years. So I don’t have to be that vocal leader out there. I just need to do my job and figure my stuff out first.”
(You’re known as a physical player. When [shoulder] pads come on tomorrow, how does practice change from today to tomorrow?) – “It’s my first one. All I can tell you is when the pads come on, it’s a different level of physicality. A lot of the thinking goes out of the window because it becomes more of a physical game; not more mental, touchy, touchy. It’s physical with the pads on.”
(How do you handle yourself out here in the ‘touchy, touchy’ periods of practice?) – “You just practice like a pro – keep everybody up, try not to get anybody hurt, no feet tangled up or anything like that. But when the pads come on, you know we’ll be physical.”
(Is it a little frustrating out there when you can’t tackle?) – “No, it’s part of being a pro.”
(Would starting be something important to you? Obviously with LB Koa Misi out for the year, there’s even a greater opportunity. Is that a goal?) – “Yes, it’s definitely a goal of mine; but it’s a long-term goal. What I have to focus on is getting better tomorrow and focusing on what I did wrong today so I can get better tomorrow.”
(How comfortable are you at Mike linebacker? We saw you out there today.) – “I’m comfortable at Mike but we’ve been switching out and doing a lot of things out here. But I’m very comfortable out there at Mike.”
(You’ve been at Mike and strong side, those two?) – “I’ve been playing all three – whatever my coach wants me to do.”
(Your strengths right now, you point to what? I know coaches have talked about how prepared you are, how you know the playbook. What would you point to as your strengths at this point?) – “Just coming in prepared. I try to be one of the most prepared guys out there. I haven’t gotten everything down pat. I learn as I go, picking things up from the veterans; but other than that, I think being just mentally prepared and physically prepared with my body.”
(When you’re playing the middle linebacker position, is that a situation where the middle linebacker calls the plays? Is that how that would work in two weeks?) – “Yes. I call the plays. I get the huddle call for the guys and get everything lined up. But then from there, everybody makes their own checks and calls too.”
(If they do end up putting you in the middle, how much of a pride – and of course we’re a long way off from knowing that – but how much pride would you take in that knowing there are two established pros who have been successful middle linebackers that would be alongside you in LB Lawrence Timmons and LB Kiko Alonso?) – “There are a lot of expectations for me. Those guys are proven leaders and proven players out there on the field. So going out there and living up to my own expectations and playing to a high standard.”
(You mentioned the heat. How tough it is to sometimes concentrate when it’s this hot?) – “It’s hard to concentrate right now talking to you all. (laughter) Other than that, it’s alright once you get used to it. We’ve been down here for a little while and got a little taste of it in the spring, but there isn’t nothing like this.”
(How has the Ohio State program prepared you for the NFL?) – “It’s the best program in the nation, to me. There’s no place I feel like a recruit should rather go than Ohio State, because you can get mentally prepared for the NFL physically and you’ll win championships at Ohio State.”
(Outside of the heat, what is the biggest challenge about this process?) – “Just learning the game. It’s a different game. The (hash marks), player speed, physicality, it’s just a totally different game that you have to prepare for.”
(Will you get to tackle someone before the Falcons game?) – “You tell me. This is my first (training camp). (laughter)”
(Saturday scrimmage at the stadium, maybe?) – “I don’t know. I’m worried about tomorrow. I don’t know what they have going on, but hopefully.”
(What’s the best way to be a good tackler when you hardly practice it?) – “You always practice it mentally. So when you’re pursuing the ball, we always do the eyes-through-the-thighs, wrap-and-roll type tackle. Just getting low, bending your knees and always being in a good football position.”